Iowa voters are pretty evenly divided on Terry Branstad's job performance as Governor. 45% of them approve of the job he's doing and 44% disapprove. But Branstad would nevertheless start out as a pretty substantial favorite against most of the Democrats being mentioned as possible candidates next year.
In a rematch of his 2010 contest with Chet Culver, Branstad would start out ahead 50/40. Culver continues to be relatively unpopular in the state with 34% of voters holding a positive opinion of him to 46% with a negative one. Branstad's up 53/28 with independents and his overall 10 point lead is similar to the margin he won by last time. Branstad also has double digit leads over another pair of Democrats who have expressed interest in running: it's 48/33 over State Senator Jack Hatch and 47/31 over State Party chair Tyler Olson.
3 other Democrats we tested come closer to Branstad, but none of them seem like particularly likely candidates. If Tom Vilsack wanted to make a return to his former office, he would trail Branstad only 47/46. Bruce Braley, who seems much more likely to be a Senate candidate, trails 47/41. And Dave Loebsack would be at a 48/38 deficit.
Other findings from Iowa:
-Iowans support same sex marriage by a 46/43 margin. In October of 2011 we found that only 41% of voters thought it should be legal to 48% who wanted it illegal. That 10 point net increase in support reflects the national movement over the last few years. 76% of voters say that gay marriage being legal in the state has had no impact on their lives or a positive one.
-Chuck Grassley continues to be Iowa's most popular politician, with his approval rating coming in at 49/32 this month. Tom Harkin isn't too far behind at 46/38.
-Looking ahead to this fall's race for Secretary of State, Democratic challenger Brad Anderson has a small lead over Republican incumbent Matt Schultz at 33/31.
Full results here